ISRO successfully launches 31 satellites on PSLV-C38

PSLV-C38. Image courtesy of ISRO.

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 40th flight (PSLV-C38), has successfully launched the 712 kg Cartosat-2E satellite for earth observation and 30 co-passenger satellites together weighing about 243 kg at lift-off into a 505 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

PSLV-C38 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. This will be the seventeenth flight of PSLV in ‘XL’ configuration (with the use of solid strap-on motors).

K Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, said: “This mission is not a regular, routine mission. After the satellite separation, the upper stage liquid engines (PS4) is going to be active for 10 more orbits, and is going to provide a very cost-effective platform for carrying out very costly experiments.”

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According to B Jayakumar, Mission Director, the unique feature of this mission is that ISRO will be demonstrating the third re-start of the PSLV upper stage, PS4. This will allow ISRO to launch satellites into multiple orbits as required by the satellite team. This will give additional commercial importance to the PSLV, according to Jayakumar. India had previously demonstrated second re-start of the PS4, launching satellites into two different orbits.


The co-passenger satellites comprise 29 Nano satellites from 14 countries namely, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, United Kingdom, and United States of America as well as one Nano satellite from India. The total weight of all these satellites carried on-board PSLV-C38 is about 955 kg.

The 29 International customer Nano satellites are being launched as part of the commercial arrangements between Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix), a Government of India company under Department of Space (DOS) and the commercial arm of ISRO and the International customers.

Also on board was China’s NUDTSat (National University of Defense Technology Satellite), a 2U-CubeSat for technolgy development and upper atmosphere science. It is developed and built at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in China.

According to Gunter Krebs, it is a part of the QB50 constellation to gather science data in the upper layers of the troposphere in the altitude range from 350 km down to 200 km. The QB50 project, which will demonstrate the possibility of launching a network of 50 CubeSats built by Universities Teams all over the world as a primary payload on a low-cost launch vehicle to perform first-class science in the largely unexplored lower thermosphere.

It carries a Science Unit (SU) named INMS (Ion/Neutral Mass Spectrometer) for sampling of low mass ionized and neutral particles in lower thermosphere, such as O, O2, and N2.

The satellite is one of six QB50 science satellites, which were to be launched on a Dnepr rocket on the QB50-DS flight. As the availability of Dnepr has become doubtful, they were transfered to an Indian PSLV-XL launch.

Also on board are satellites from University College London (UCL), University of Surrey, FH Aachen – University of Applied Sciences (Austria) and other higher-education institutions from Europe.


The Cartosat-2 Series Satellite is the primary satellite being carried by PSLV-C38. This remote sensing satellite is similar to the earlier five satellites of the Cartosat series. After its injection into a 505 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit by PSLV-C38, the satellite will be brought to operational configuration, following which it will begin providing regular remote sensing services using its Panchromatic and Multispectral cameras.

The imagery sent by the satellite will be useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, utility management like road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps, change detection to bring out geographical and manmade features and various other Land Information System (LIS) as well as Geographical Information System (GIS) applications.

Indian University Satellite – NIUSAT

NIUSAT is an Indian University/Academic Institute satellite from Noorul Islam University in Tamil Nadu State. This 15 kg three axis stabilised satellite is built to provide multispectral imagery for agricultural crop monitoring and disaster management support applications.

A dedicated Mission Control Center with UHF/VHF antenna for Telemetry/Tele-command operations and S-Band antenna for Payload data reception has been established at the University.

P Kunhikrishnan, Director, SDSC SHAR, said: “The 40th launch of PSLV has clearly demonstrated its commendable position as one of the most reliable launch vehicles in the world. With this launch, we have completed 61 launch missions from the spaceport of India, Sriharikota.”

According to M V Dekhane, Director, IISU ISRO is yet to test the limits of its capabilities, and is targeting to do 8-10 launches per year in the near future.


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